How do consumers evaluate which businesses are creating positive impact for the world and which ones are ‘greenwashing’? Many companies are skilled in spinning PR and advertising messages to persuade us that they are doing “the right thing” for the environment or communities, while simultaneously engaging in business practices that may be considered unethical, immoral or, worse, illegal.
On the other hand, there are also amazing businesses that are actively involved in addressing many of our social and environmental issues that either struggle to get their credentials and story out into the consumer market or get blemished by the greenwashing of bigger companies – a kind of “guilt by association”. It doesn’t help farmers who are growing genuine, certified organic produce when a dodgy opportunist passes off conventionally grown fruit and vegetables as “organic” in their shop.
Consumers like choice. Walk around any major supermarket and you are surrounded by competing brands and products. But choice can be debilitating – too many options and you can end up struggling to make a decision. Many supermarkets, in their own unique way, are actually reducing the number of brands on their shelves to limit choice, although the move is not entirely altruistic: it’s a deliberate strategy to increase the visibility and availability of their own private label products…but that’s a story for another post.
The rise in the number of social and environmental issues that important to consumers has also spurred the proliferation of ecolabels. For consumer products, there are certifications and labels for organic and biodynamic food, Fair Trade, sustainable seafood, Rainforest Alliance ingredients, carbon neutral, wildlife friendly…the list goes on. With over 400 ecolabels available, it’s not only consumers who need to navigate their way through them to determine whether they are making an ethical purchase. Businesses also must decide which, if any, labels to use to communicate their environmental and socially responsible credentials. Including too many labels and certifications on a product packaging may simply confuse customers even more.
One of the ways that customers can determine whether a business as a whole is operating in an ethical and sustainable way is by looking for the B Corporation certification. Unlike other ecolabels which may provide credibility and authenticity for a particular product or ingredient, the B Corp certification assesses a business on their performance across a wide range of factors, including governance, environmental impact, community and social impact, employee welfare and safety, and customers.
For us at Whole Kids, we have adopted two key certifications. The first is our organic certification. This ensures that the ingredients we use in our products are compliant with industry accepted organic standards, and provides confidence to our customers that they are purchasing genuine, authentic organic products that have been audited and approved by an independent third-party organization.
The second key certification is our B Corporation status. For us, the B Corp certification provides an independent, third-party “whole-of-business” assessment of our business practices, policies and impact. The B Corp assessment tool urges us to ask ourselves: our products are organic, but are we making a meaningful difference with our business as whole? Beyond our products, how do we measure that to work out our business impact? And how can we improve?
The B Corp certification helps cut through the greenwashing and PR spin of most corporate social responsibility (CSR) campaigns which are largely driven from a company’s marketing or corporate affairs department. The B Corp assessment is a systematic and rigourous set of standards to meaningfully compare businesses, and to help consumers evaluate which companies really are making a difference in the world.